Rookie Sunday: Does it help your Delta upgrade chances to split a reservation in 2018?

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a regular feature on the Renés Points blog. This blog series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this featured topic.

Is it wise to split in 2018?

NO(-ish)! Saved you a click then? Is this the shortest post in history since you mostly have your answer? Well maybe, but do notice I added “ish” on the end of my NO answer. Thus I still think you rookie elites can read on a bit so you know what I am talking about because I can PROMISE you that medallion reps will many times give you bad information when it comes to elite “+1” upgrades. Also, you and I need to know the facts as well as some strategies to help you use this rule to get more upgrades for you and the one with you on the same reservation.

First the rule (as of this post date anyway). If you have two people on the same reservation or PNR (key part, btw) then the two of you should both enjoy the same status level for the flight, that is, the elite level as well as all the other bits that have a huge impact on your shot at an upgrade starting at 5 days preflight as well as where you are on the list the day of flight if you did not clear before the check-in window (much more likely in 2018 since Delta is selling upgrades so cheap nowadays and holding back elite upgrades).

So let’s get the simple one out of the way: is there now any advantage for one person to get an upgrade by splitting the reservation into 2? Will this, as it did in the past, shoot the single elite up the upgrade list by no longer having the lower elite (or non elite SkyMiles member) on the reservation? No, it will not. Even if reps tell you this will help in 2018 it will NOT as it once did in the past. But there is a caveat here to consider so it is not as simple as I make it sound. Like how?

There are many times at the 5-day upgrade window where Delta only has 1 seat open for a medallion upgrade. If you have you and your +1 on the reservation do you know what happens if there is a single elite below you? Yep, #3 gets the 5 day window upgrade over you two in the #1 & #2 slots because there is only 1 seat open for upgrade. The same thing also applies at the gate if there is only 1 seat open for upgrade. Now in the latter case a great and competent rep will call you over and ASK you if you want to, at that point, split the reservation and give the upgrade to one of you two (rather than just splitting it without asking). Why does this last bit matter?

Let’s say you have more than 5 days at where ever you are going and on the return the 1st class cabins are mostly empty. If your outbound reservation has been split to get that gate upgrade then on the return only one of you are likely to get the return 1st class upgrades (vs. both if you were still on the same PNR). This can be a reason to consider booking two one-way reservations with your +1 so that if you do have to split it does not negatively impact your return trip. There are other pros and cons of two one-way reservations so don’t always jump on this choice unless upgrades are your main goal.

Bottom line is while in the past splitting a reservation could have a mega impact on your location on the upgrade list. Today that is not the case and if you are going to split, it is for a bunch of other reasons – moving up the upgrade list is not one of those anymore. – Rene